The Rose Thief, Claire Buss

The Rose Thief, Claire Buss

The Rose Thief

The Rose Thief has an upside down opening: quite literally, as Ned Spinks, Chief Thief Catcher, is suspended by his heels for questioning at the time. Someone’s been stealing the Emperor’s roses, and one of them embodies the force of love. Steal that, and the kingdom will lose all ability to care. Ned’s job is to track the rose thief…before he or she makes off with the rose of love. Between that, an undercover warlock, and the murder of a prominent figure in Roshaven’s underworld, Ned’s dance card for the day is getting full – and that’s without the diplomatic pitfalls of beetle cheesecake (spit or swallow?)

The Rose Thief is a light-hearted comedy fantasy, set in a world of magic and intrigue (and we aren’t going to mention the strap-on attachment that allows humans to talk with Sparks the firefly). The plot weaves politics, family feuds, and the power of love into a colourful adventure, underscored with a telling commentary on gender discrimination that forms a more serious sideline to the main story. The character of Jenni, Ned’s partner-come-nemesis, was one that particularly drew me – a sprite with an entertainingly foul mouth to match her customary aroma, Jenni is one of the most powerful characters in the story, a force of nature with no interest in being in charge. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys laughter and fantasy.

Thanks, PG!, John Isaac Jones

Thanks, PG!, John Isaac Jones

Thanks, PG!: Memoirs of a Tabloid Reporter

In Thanks, PG!, John Isaac Jones takes us on an in-depth exploration of the world of tabloids through the eyes of Billy Don Johnson, a pharmacist turned reporter from Alabama whose ideals of reporting are not matching up to the realities of the traditional press. Driven to seek out something new and different, he tries out for the National Insider, a tabloid headquartered in Florida. Once there, Billy Don is immediately enthralled by the complete contrast of the Insider’s style with the papers he’s worked for previously, and awed by the mythos of PG, the owner and editor in chief. Billy Don goes on to cover everything from the history of the ascension of Mao Zedong to the many affairs of Marlon Brando.

John Isaac Jones’s protagonist is an Alabama boy with a yearning to break away from the expectations set on him, willing to take some risks to make his dream for his life come true. As a character, he is eminently relatable, and that underlies and links the cameo stories of events and people that comprise much of the book. Written in a quirky first person, this book will draw you into Billy Don’s life and offer a fascinating, insider view of the world of tabloid reporting. Thanks, PG! showcases the proverb that the truth is stranger than fiction. Definitely a recommended read.

The Explorers of Serdame, Phoenix Williams

The Explorers of Serdame, Phoenix Williams

The Explorers of Serdame: The Alfred Arnold Saga Book 2

The Explorers of Serdame is a humorous fiction story, with a writing style and a theme that would make it suitable for younger audiences. Sadly, we reviewers at By Rite of Word have almost no sense of humour, making submitting a comedy for our review a very digital experience. What do I mean by that? Basically, that it’ll either hit that vanishingly small target of our sense of humour, and we’ll love it, rave about it, and tell all our friends, or, far more likely, we’ll dutifully read it with a small cloud of doom over our heads and set it aside with unbecoming haste at the end.

I’m sorry to say that this story fell into the latter category for me. The plot didn’t capture my interest, being relatively slow-paced and on the whole geared for a younger audience, and the amount of explanation in the narrative slowed it even further. There are a number of references in the story that are never really wound up, such as the mysterious wall that may be around all or part of Serdame, which shows up in the first few pages, and then never surfaces again.

I also didn’t really take to the characters. Given the amount of explanation of their whys and wherefores in the book, it’s possible that they came across as less well-developed than they actually were, but from the gallant knight who wears his armour everywhere to the woman with them who invariably arranges the food, injures her foot on journeys and has to be carried, etc., they didn’t draw me in.

Overall, while I feel that this book could be a great hit for family reading evenings, it wasn’t a read I enjoyed.

The Explorers of Serdame cover

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The Carpenter’s Moons, David James Hollamby

The Carpenter’s Moons, David James Hollamby

The Carpenter’s Moons: A Tale From Beyond the Mirror of Eternal Blissfullessness

This book showcases an intriguing range of alien species, and a series of intertwining storylines that are well-handled and mesh neatly through the story. David James Hollamby has also created characters that have some definite appeal, in the run-away-from-home and break the cultural mould coming-of-age bracket.

Unfortunately, I have to be honest this point and note that The Carpenter’s Moons is strictly a comedy sci-fi, and my sense of humour is sufficiently stunted as to make a nearly unhittable target. I therefore didn’t get on very well with the overall style of the novel, to the point where I was seriously considering bailing on the read. However, I hate doing that, so I pushed on, and sure enough, the latter half of the book (possibly—apologies to the author—because I stopped page-hopping to try and read all of the footnotes) became a lot easier to read.

In more technical and less subjective areas, the nearly-constant use of humorous asides in the footnotes, many of sufficient length to end up split across the bottom of two pages, meant a great deal of flicking back and forth from the section I was trying to read, and consequently ended up being largely ignored after I got about a third of the way into the book. There were also enough homonyms and other typos in the text to keep grabbing my attention off the story, some to the point where I needed to pause and figure out which word that sounded like the one in the text actually fitted the context.

Having got to the end, I feel that, leaving aside the issue of whether or not any type of humour will ever be universally appealing to all readers, this story could potentially benefit enormously from a strong copy-edit. Some additional work on the characterisation might also help to move this book from simply the YA genre and add appeal across a range of genres. I had the feeling, reading it, that there was a lot of potential in the book, but either because of my issues with the style, or something else, it just wasn’t quite living up to it.

Day of the Dragonking, Edward B. Irving

Day of the Dragonking, Edward B. Irving

Day of the Dragonking: The Last American Wizard

On the Day of the Dragonking, Steve Rowan, a broke freelance journalist, is woken in the middle of the night by an aero crash that didn’t happen, and reality as he knows it begins to unravel (and leak purple slime). When his cell phone turns out to be infested by a wiseass ghost (who may be more important to saving the world than he is), and a SEAL who believes he can fly shows up at his door with a cleanliness-obsessed BMW, Steve may continue to doubt that he’s the all-important Fool, but he strongly suspects someone’s making a fool of him somewhere.

Edward Irving’s story is a lighthearted urban fantasy comedy that turns the idea of a conventional terror attack on its head, peppered with snarky one-liners and entertaining protagonists. The storyline is filled with cameo characters drawn from every mythology from Salvadorean volcano dogs to the Tarot, each exerting their own cryptic influence on the plot, often in a way bound to be hilariously detrimental to whatever plan Master Chief Morningstar and Steve have hatched to save reality, and the action is well-paced and well-supported by the plot. I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, I highly recommend it.

Day of the Dragonking cover

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